Thursday, January 27, 2011

Is Racial Segregation caused by Racism? (Response)

Thanks to DCentric for reporting on my blog! I'm glad that some people enjoyed "nerding out." Just wanted to clarify a couple of things regarding my post "Is Racial Segregation caused by Racism?" two weeks ago.

On DCentric, one commenter wrote, "This reporting seems biased. There are a large number of whites moving into mostly black neighborhoods here in DC. I think its more class than race in most cases. People who are educated and can afford it will move to be around other educated neighborhoods. If that excludes blacks, then whose fault is that?"

I'm glad that you brought up class. The study I cited tested for class-based reasons and racist reasons and found that, even when the neighborhood described to the survey respondents (all whites) had all the qualities desired by middle-class people (high-quality schools, increasing property values, and a low crime rate, as well as a location near work), whites still stated that they would not buy a house in the neighborhood if there were more than 15% blacks. When thinking about potential black neighbors, race still mattered significantly no matter the class characteristics of the neighborhood.

Another commenter wrote, "I'm curious to find out the 'other reasons' that whites avoid areas with nontoken percentages of Asians and Latinos, if not race." Thanks for letting me clarify this. The study found that whites primarily chose a house based on the class-based reasons; the racial composition of the neighborhood was not a significant issue when the racial group was Latino or Asian. When thinking about potential Latino or Asian neighbors, race did not significantly matter to whites.

The first commenter brings up another relevant point. This study presents a rather average white person, thus not capturing some whites who seek to live in diverse or majority black neighborhoods. I have to read more about these people. However, sociologists have found that wealthy, educated blacks often live in worse neighborhoods than less wealthy whites. In a previous post "Racial Segregation in DC (continued)," I talked about a study by DC sociologists Gregory D. Squires, Samantha Friedman, and Catherine E. Saidat, who called 921 DC/VA/MD residents of a variety of races and found that blacks were significantly more likely than whites to experience discrimination on the housing market. Their findings support those of a 1998 Fair Housing Council of Greater Washington study, in which the Council sent out pairs of people (one black and one white) to investigate the local housing and mortgage market. According to Squires and his colleagues, "Investigators found that blacks were discriminated against 33% of the time in their efforts to buy homes, 44% of the time when they attempted to rent, and 37% of the times they applied for mortgage loans. Discriminatory practices included racial steering, misrepresentation about the availability of homes, differences in rental rates for the same units and the number of units that were shown, disparities in mortgage interest rates, differential application of particular stands, and others." Therefore, the white nature of "educated neighborhoods" is not purely the result of economic reasons, educational levels, or personal choices.

Also, we should research whether what appears to be a racially integrated neighborhood like that in Ward 6 is really racially integrated, especially in social life. Is the idea that Capitol Hill is racially integrated just a fantasy?


  1. Your question - yes it is a fantasy. If you're talking about where people live. If you look at the 2000 census tracts - you'll see the "close in" part of the Hill was almost all white. The "middle part" - those tracts that bordered to the east of Lincoln Park and then went north and south - were integrated. The tracts to the East closer to the stadium, were majority black. Now we all go to eastern market and see one another, and in 2000 there was one supermarket, so you see everyone there. Then you feel warm and fuzzy about your integrated neighborhood. If you're a gentrifier like me ;). Looking at the NY times article that shows a population by race dot map a few weeks ago, it seems, not surprisingly that the line has pushed out. I'd be interested in seeing what the census tracts show. My memory may be fuzzy - I looked at those maps as a curiosity, not a professional matter so I don't recall where I found the information.

    Now I could say - No, its not a fantasy - based on our supermarkets, and common areas. And, people would probably have a point it probably looks and feels more integrated then a lot of these United States. The counter might be looking at use of the Parks or things that are more voluntary.

  2. I have problems withe methodology of the survey. You are asking white people in the suburbs of a major City that is known as being, Black and Crime ridden, and having bad schools. I doubt the callers would believe you if you said there was a neighborhood that was more than 15% black that had good schools, and would stay that way. Canarsie my hood growing up was like that in 1988, and back then property values were rising (the last bubble), it didn't stay that way. I wonder if a place like the one described in your the study exists in the Northeast Corridor. Still its surprising whites wouldn't agree to live in fantasy land, I assume they didn't believe it could really exist. I often think that Whites in the Northeast are very traumatized by the riots of the 60's and the crack epidemic of the 80's and that this emotional trauma will take a long time to heal. It certainly hasn't healed for me.

  3. I guess my point is sample bias. Why not just ask Italian folks on long island. My guess is if you did this pole in Wisconsin, or Minnesota where there has been less racial fiction you might get a different result. Additionally you might surprisingly better results in the south where there is shockingly more integration.

  4. Ward 6 is not racially integrated in most places. Around the time the baseball stadium was being built I rented at 1st and M Street SW, on a block where I was the only white person. Though I lived with a black girl, I believe we were specifically targeted with threats and burglarization because of my race. Whether it's because we were perceived to be wealthier than everyone else or because we were seen as harbringers of gentrification is unclear, but the repeated violations from a handful of neighbors inevitably drove us out. I think the reason whites are more willing to have Asian or Latino neighbors is simply because these groups are more willing to live alongside us-- nobody wants to live in a place where they feel unwelcome.

  5. I've lived near RFK for 8.5 years now. I have encountered many whites who move in and then apparently felt comfortable hanging out with black residents -- when we first moved in, we were invited to a series of "neighborhood happy hours" that turned out to be 90-100% white.

    I feel like we've received a very warm welcome from our black neighbors, though. (On our very first visit after the closing, we met one of our neighbors over the back fence -- an elderly black woman -- and she asked, "Are you the new neighbors?" and when we said yes, she beamed and said, "Praise the Lord!")

    I have had one negative encounter -- a young kid (~10 years old?), who challenged me on the street, saying, "Why you people takin' over?" But several of the kids with him were uncomfortable with the way he spoke to me, and that incident stands out as a one-time thing.

    Severin mentioned schools -- I've been researching schools for my daughter, and I've noticed that school reputation seem to coincide with race more than with academic performance. The schools with a significant white minority have big waitlists in the preschool lottery -- even though nearby schools (that are 98% black) have scores that are 20-30% higher.

  6. Argh, that first sentence should have said, "felt UNcomfortable hanging out ..."